Colorado’s Right To Repair law is first to include business-to-business repairs

Colorado has become the latest US state to sign Right to Repair legislation into law, making it easier for everyone to get their devices repaired. The new law is arguably the most inclusive version yet as it doesn’t include the usual legal carve-outs that exclude business-to-business repairs.

Colorado advocates and lawmakers have delivered a triple-threat legislation: consumer rights, business rights and a right slap in the face for naïve manufacturers who never thought right to repair law would include B2B. Let me explain.

What makes Colorado’s Right to Repair law different?

Colorado’s Consumer Right to Repair Digital Electronic Equipment act (aka HB24-1121) stands on the shoulders of the other landmark pieces of Right to Repair law which have been enacted in New York, California, Minnesota and Oregon.

Each sets a precedent that seems to set a benchmark for the repair advocates and legislators in other states. For example, while Oregon grabbed headlines for banning parts pairing, the media barely mentioned Colorado’s implementation of the same restriction.

That’s because Colorado’s limelight stealer was the revelation that business-to-business sales were part of the law. This immediately brings devices such as servers, photocopiers and networking equipment into the Right to Repair spotlight.

Why are business-to-business transactions excluded?

One challenge of passing right to repair legislation is breaking the stranglehold that some manufacturers have over their customers. To maximise revenue from service contracts and extended warranties, many business-focused tech companies’ financial models depend on suppressing any form of third-party repair.

Consumer protection laws have forced many manufacturers to abandon their monopolistic practices for home users, but businesses get a free pass. In the UK, consumers buying from businesses are covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (formally Sales of Goods Act: 1979) for things like refunds, safety, quality and statutory warranties. If you’re a business buying from a business, equivalent protections don’t exist, so hey-ho, it’s off to court we go.

Large corporations often hire expensive lawyers and lobbyists to protect their income streams, which leads to the exclusion of business-to-business transactions to ensure a right-to-repair bill’s passage.

This didn’t happen in Colorado.

Will tech companies have to change how they operate to comply?

Oh yes. Delve deep into the T&Cs of networking giant Cisco – just one example – and you will discover:

Cisco does not offer or provide any replacement or spare parts to third-party service repair businesses.

So Cisco protects its revenue by not supplying parts to third-party repairers, but thousands of other manufacturers do the same. I suppose if Cisco repairs your product, at least it will come with a decent warranty… wait, what?

The repair warranty is typically 90 days from time of repair. Note: Repair warranty only applies to units that were repaired by Cisco.

So, Cisco doesn’t let third-party repairers help. It doesn’t supply parts and any fix they do will only get 90 days warranty. Or at least, that’s how things currently stand. And just to be clear, I’m picking on Cisco, but if you head into the T&Cs of many other B2B suppliers you’ll find similar rulings.

But – and it’s a big but – Colorado’s law mandates the option for third-party repair. Any manufacturer that mandates repairs performed by itself or its authorised network will need to swiftly alter its operations within Colorado.

The wording for HB24-1121 is:

For digital electronic equipment manufactured and sold or used in the state after January 1, 2025, the manufacturer shall not use parts pairing to prevent an independent repair provider or owner from installing or enabling an otherwise functional replacement part

What if my business is not in Colorado?

Many companies that have to operate differently in one territory will find it hard to run a multi-tier support system based on location. In other words, what happens in Colorado may not stay in Colorado.

Also, other states have Right to Repair legislation in motion whilst their sessions remain open. Nathan Proctor, Senior Director with US PIRG, told TechFinitive:

California has a wheelchair Right to Repair that is moving and there is some time left in other states, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, that could technically move.

I asked Nathan if he expects business friendly Right to Repair legislation to become the norm and if it could retro-fit into earlier laws, such as New York and California. He said,

It has always been our vision that Right to Repair covers as many products as possible. Businesses need to fix electronic devices as much as consumers do. We hope that we can continue to expand the scope of legislation to be as broad and strong as possible, so that people can fix all their electronics.

What’s clear is that Colorado has moved the Right to Repair conversation forward, but how the law will work is still to be seen. However, the operating space for anti-competitive manufacturers that want to prevent repair and e-waste reduction has become a little bit smaller.

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Lee Grant

Lee is a long-time advocate for sustainability within IT, with a fierce passion for everyone to have a right to repair. In his day job, Lee and his wife Alison run a computer repair shop, Inspiration Computers, near Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, UK. He's also a contributing editor and podcaster for PC Pro.